Junction restructuring and spermatogenesis: The biology, regulation, and implication in male contraceptive development

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Spermatogenesis that occurs in the seminiferous epithelium of adult mammalian testes is associated with extensive junction restructuring at the Sertoli-Sertoli cell, Sertoli-germ cell, and Sertoli-basement membrane interface. While this morphological phenomenon is known and has been described in great details for decades, the biochemical and molecular changes as well as the mechanisms/signaling pathways that define changes at the cell-cell and cell-matrix interface remain largely unknown until recently. In this chapter, we summarize and discuss findings in the field regarding the coordinated efforts of the anchoring [e.g., adherens junction (AJ), such as basal ectoplasmic specialization (basal ES)] and tight junctions (TJs) that are present in the same microenvironment, such as at the blood-testis barrier (BTB), or at distinctly opposite ends of the Sertoli cell epithelium, such as between apical ectoplasmic specialization (apical ES) in the apical compartment, and the BTB adjacent to the basal compartment of the epithelium. These efforts, in turn, regulate and coordinate different cellular events that occur during the seminiferous epithelial cycle. For instance, the events of spermiation and of preleptotene spermatocyte migration across the BTB both take place concurrently at stage VIII of the epithelial cycle of spermatogenesis. Recent findings suggest that these events are coordinated by protein complexes found at the apical and basal ES and TJ, which are located at different ends of the Sertoli cell epithelium. Besides, we highlight important areas of research that can now be undertaken, and functional studies that can be designed to tackle different issues pertinent to junction restructuring during spermatogenesis.